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Can Making Social Media a Spectator Sport Move it to the Mainstream? - Why I Created spy.appspot.com.

There is much conversation among bloggers lately about targeting early adopters versus the mainstream, as Scoble would say the passionates versus the non-passionates, should we be excited when the early adopters love our product or service but the masses don’t understand it?

No, we shouldn’t we need to find ways that show the value of what we do to the mainstream otherwise we’ll be here talking to ourselves for years… how can we create that passion, or at least show ours?

The creation of my Google App Engine project ‘spy‘ has created a wave of conversation among my close daily contacts, in my company and even from the Google App Engine team itself, but to me it’s not the JSON feed compositing, the jQuery goodness or even the fun of trying out the App Engine itself… none of that is really that new or complicated it’s about simplicity and visualizing the social media conversation that give meaning to the applications like Twitter and FriendFeed and I believe a larger understanding of social media in general to its ‘viewers’.

Viewers?

Yes ‘viewers’, many need to see the value for themselves before they’d ever jump in and create that first FriendFeed account while we, the early adopters, scurry around and try to sign up for the newest thing in the first hour it’s created (Plurk, Identi.ca, Cuil anyone?).

You see, I talk to (real “normal”) people every day and similar things happen…

Me: “hey, I saw a great post on FriendFeed today, I commented back a tweet to Robert Scoble and he responded back to me in like 5 seconds” or maybe “last night Leo Laporte ‘liked’ my post about spy!”

Them: “huh, cool I guess”

it just doesn’t mean anything to them… I got the opportunity to talk to people I respect and have never met in a here to for unprecedented manner thanks to social media… but to them it is chatter, buzzwords, etc… if I would have got an email maybe that would have meant something to them?

These back channel social conversations just don’t hit home yet for the masses, it is really cool but not impactful to their life… this is where my idea for ‘spy’ was born. How could I make listening into the social media conversation about something you care about as low impact as turning on your TV. How can you show someone meaningful discourse via these new channels that they are overlooking or discounting?

A glimpse of social media from your armchair

So I did something about it, I combined feeds from Summize and Friendfeed to bring together the posts over a given time period and set them to scroll using some packaged JavaScript libraries, this created a simple interface that put in your face exactly what is being said about something that is relevant to you, say a conference you happen to be at, a company you work for, watch a news event unfold in front of your eyes before the US media is reporting it or maybe the news on your favorite presidential candidate.

Tipping Point?

What I saw was once I put something to scroll on a TV in front of someone that they care about people perked up, they laughed, they showed their friends, when a negative or odd post about their company or cause showed up they said “why would people say that online” my answer was two fold…
a) it doesn’t matter why they are saying it, they are… and we need to be listening

and

b) if they are saying it online they are, at least, saying the same thing verbally to all of their friends and it is affecting your company or cause… and we need to be part of the conversation, it is our brand

The next logical question from them was “how do we respond?” Yes! This engagement tipping point I believe is what social media needs, it’s not about newer technologies it needs to be about the conversation its value and its increasing relevance to everything we do.

From our early adopter lens here is no reason that everyone in your company is not participating in the conversation and monitoring their interests, but you need to start from somewhere you need to put the candy infront of the masses and let them decide the value for themselves to me visualization and simplicity are the key to this tipping point.

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